Friday, January 13, 2012

On The Patch

♂Smew at Draycote Today!
After our away day in Norfolk it was back to Brandon Marsh on Thursday with the work party volunteers. The morning was spent dealing with probably the biggest tree I've ever dropped, when we dealt with a huge Willow in Horsetail Glade, which was leaning dangerously towards the footpath.

On the birding front I spent a short while in Big Hide before starting work, being entertained by a very energetic Peregrine which had the Gulls, circa500 Lapwing and Waterfowl darting around East Marsh Pool. At one time the birds were flying so close to the water to evade him that you could see the water literately shuddering due to the downward airflow! The bird left empty handed, perching high in a tree and offering some excellent views.

Also of note on East Marsh Pool were: 3 Shelduck, 1 Barnacle Goose, 5 Goldeneye 2♂ of which 1 was juvenile + 3♀, 11 Snipe and 22 Wigeon. During work around 90 Golden Plover were seen in flight over the 'Tip' area and when I returned after work at around 3pm to Big Hide, most likely the same Peregrine made another unsuccessful attempt, plus I had 1 Raven over and my first Kingfisher of the year.

When I woke this morning at around 6am I decided to have a trawl locally to see if any Owls were on the patch and then pay a visit to Draycote Water at first light. I love these crystal clear crispy mornings, something that we don't seem to have had a lot of this winter. I also wanted to see if I could spot Mercury, which is currently low in the east just before dawn. Did you know that statistics show that only 1% of the population of the UK have apparently ever seen Mercury?

No sign of any of the Marina's Tawny Owl population, which have been quite elusive of late, but I did manage one of the Little Owls which was perched in his usual spot atop one of the telephone poles. A search of the adjacent fields produced a quartering Barn Owl and by the time I reached Napton Reservoir the mist had descended, ruling out any chance of spotting a rarity!

Checking the live Draycote Weather Station Cam on my Ipad all seemed clear and yes you guessed it, by the time I reached Farborough Bank the mist had duly descended. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long before the sun burnt most of it off and I was off and running. For my second consecutive visit I managed to dip on the Red-breasted Merganser, but did however make contact with my first ♂Smew of the year, when I finally caught up with the recent arrival near the Valve Tower. Other birds of note for the day were a singing Skylark, a half dozen Goosander, Yellow-legged Gull and around 25 Yellowhammer, which were in trees across the field at the back of the 'Inlet'. (Draycote Water Map)

Oh and finally I never managed to make contact with Mercury, apparently January 16th is a more favourable date.